Comelec says can't compel bets to undergo drug test due to SC ruling

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 19 2021 06:29 PM

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot compel candidates in the May 2022 elections to submit themselves to mandatory drug testing, citing a Supreme Court (SC) ruling that struck down a previous order as unconstitutional.

“Substance abuse is not among the disqualifications provided for by law. In any case, the Comelec did try to require candidates to submit a negative drug test several elections ago. The move was disapproved by the Supreme Court,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said in a statement Friday.

This came after President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday claimed that one presidential aspirant is a cocaine user.

"There’s even a presidential candidate na nag-cocaine... May kandidato tayo na nagko-cocaine; yan, mga anak ng mayaman," Duterte said.

Duterte refused to name the presidential aspirant, but alluded he is among the top contenders.

SUPREME COURT RULING

In 2008, the SC struck down as unconstitutional section 36 (g) of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act (RA No. 9165) and Comelec Resolution 6486 - both pertaining to mandatory drug testing of candidates.

Section 36 (g) likewise compelled those seeking to be appointed in government office to undergo the mandatory requirement.

“All candidates for public office whether appointed or elected both in the national or local government shall undergo a mandatory drug test,” the said section read.

Meanwhile, the assailed Comelec resolution required all candidates for national and local positions in the May 10, 2004 elections to “undergo mandatory drug test in government forensic laboratories or any drug testing laboratories monitored and accredited by the Department of Health.”

In its ruling, the high court sided with the argument raised by petitioner Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. that the Constitution provides only for a maximum of 5 qualifications for one to be a candidate for senator namely, (1) citizenship, (2) voter registration, (3) literacy, (4) age, and (5) residency.

“It is basic that if a law or an administrative rule violates any norm of the Constitution, that issuance is null and void and has no effect. The Constitution is the basic law to which all laws must conform; no act shall be valid if it conflicts with the Constitution. In the discharge of their defined functions, the three departments of government have no choice but to yield obedience to the commands of the Constitution. Whatever limits it imposes must be observed,” the decision, penned by then Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., stated.

It further pointed out, “In the same vein, the Comelec cannot, in the guise of enforcing and administering election laws or promulgating rules and regulations to implement Sec. 36(g), validly impose qualifications on candidates for senator in addition to what the Constitution prescribes.”

The high court stressed, “The right of a citizen in the democratic process of election should not be defeated by unwarranted impositions of requirement not otherwise specified in the Constitution."

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